PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Trentemøller: Fixion

With Fixion, Trentemøller continues the evolutionary process from straight electronic act to electropop artist with broad-ranging appeal.


Trentemøller

Fixion

Label: In My Room
US Release Date: 2016-09-16
UK Release Date: 2016-09-16

Long rooted in electronic abstraction, Danish DJ and producer Trentemøller has increasing inched his way into the realm of more straight ahead electronic pop music. Through a handful of successful remixes for the likes of Robyn and other like-minded artists and production duty on Savages’ latest release, he has begun to make a name for himself away from the house music scene within which he initially made a name for himself.

It’s not yet a full abandonment, however, as Fixion still features elements of Trentemøller’s heavily electronic musical past in addition to his increasingly pop future. Lead single “River in Me,” featuring Savages’ Jehnny Beth is all post-punk/new wave swagger with decidedly more aggressive production that makes it a clear standout. Both this and “Complicated” benefit a great deal from Beth’s very presence, a well-defined voice that helps anchor Trentemøller’s stylistic wandering in something resembling coherence.

“One Eye Open” aims squarely for electronic pop hit territory, complete with big, pristine production and a gently melodic hook courtesy of guest vocalist and previous Trentemøller collaborator Marie FIsker.

Interspersed within these more traditionally structured electropop tracks are a handful of straight instrumentals that bear an almost uncanny resemblance to the second side of Bowie’s Berlin-era recordings on Low. “Sinus” sounds as though it could have been a library track for some abandoned sci-fi project, while “Phoenicia” incorporates Low’s buzzing, analog synths, pairing them with a Kraftwerk-via-new-wave vibe that builds to a false climax.

“Redefine", another track featuring Fisker, tones down the straight pop of opener “One Eye Open” in favor of a sparser, more robotically post-punk feel. Like a more fleshed out xx track, “Redefine” relies on Fisker’s hushed vocals against a simple, driving bass line and rudimentary electronic percussion heavy on the twos and fours. It makes for an interesting juxtaposition and Trentemøller’s use of multiple guest vocalists helps to lend each an individualist feel. But more often than not Fixion carries with it the sound of a compilation rather than straight collaboration or unified artistic statement. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, rather it shows Trentemøller still searching for a well-defined identity within the relatively-new-to-him world of electropop.

More often than not, Trentemøller relies on a post-punk sparseness that functions as a step back from his more lavish recent productions. It’s an interesting distillation of where he has been, combining disparate elements of a nearly 20-year career in hopes of creating a unified sound that fits within the defined Trentemøller sound while also striving to move his music forward.

“My Conviction” devolves from ethereal detachment to grinding electronics in a jarring juxtaposition of styles that never manages to fully come together into a coherent whole. Conversely, “November” evokes the starkness of the penultimate month, again returning to Bowie-esque abstraction and atmosphere generation more so than memorable hooks. The thick, electric guitar drones again call to mind both the xx and, in a nod to the direct post-punk influence on display, New Order. At nearly seven minutes, it’s an elongated sonic exploration that strains to maintain the listener’s attention. It’s seamless transition into “Spinning” extends the track’s feel just that much more, making it something of a “Warszawa” moment for Trentemøller. Only with Fisker’s heavily effected vocals on the latter are the two able to differentiate from one another, its minor-key crawl a direct extension of “November” and its icy remove.

By combining the instrumentally abstract with pure electropop songwriting, Trentemøller has created a rather jarring collection of songs that can never quite settle on who or how it would like to be. Each still retains some of the best elements of the producer’s previous work and is certainly pleasant enough to listen to, but it lacks the stylistic coherence necessary for these types of experiments to truly succeed.

The most clatteringly abrasive track on the album, “Circuits” is all avant garde noise and electronic experimentation. Sounding at once primitive and futuristic, it’s yet another extreme departure from that which precedes it. It’s not until its final, rhythmically propulsive closing minutes that it begins to even remotely resemble anything else on the album. Falling as it does, “Circuits” feels more like a palate cleanser than full-on stylistic reset before embarking on the album’s final two tracks, both of which return to the previously established post-punk/new wave vibe.

In trying to establish a new identity, Trentemøller seems more confused than confident in his declaration of who he wants to be. Yet this stylistic wandering is not without its merits, each representing one of the myriad facets of his musical persona. As soon as he manages to reconcile the more disparate elements into a well-defined whole, it’s likely Trentemøller will find himself one of the leading lights in progressive electropop. Until then, Fixion serves as more of an evolutionary link -- a sound experiment -- than fully formed statement of intent.

6

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.

Books

Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon
Music

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.

Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.